April 26, 2009

King Philip's War in After the Mayflower

Continuing the discussion of After the Mayflower, the first episode of PBS's We Shall Remain series:

  • Massasoit died in the 1660s and his 24-year-old son, Philip, became chief. Philip rejected the English attempts to convert him and placed a moratorium on land sales. But it was almost too late. At this point, the English no longer considered the Indians partners and equals. The Indians had become second-class citizens in their own land.

  • Even their language change to reflect this. Previously, the word they used for "my land" meant, "I am physically the land, and the land is me." But eventually they began using a word in which "I" and "the land" were two separate entities.

  • According to After the Mayflower, the Indians complained about the loss of their "sovereign" rights. I don't know if anyone literally used that word or if it was a writer's invention. But it suggests the reality that we often forget or ignore. Indian tribes were separate and distinct nations long before America was "settled" and the US Constitution recognized this fact.

  • Philip realized the Indians must make a stand or they would be overrun. So the Wampanoags and the Narragansetts, their old enemies, launched King Philip's War. They burn something like 25 towns and killed 2,000 colonists. The war spread to Connecticut and eastern New York. The Indians were winning.

  • This is fascinating if you think about it. Remember, it was 50-plus years after the first English incursions. Diseases had decimated the Indian population. The English had guns while the Indians, unless they bought them, didn't. Yet the Indians were winning.

  • The English considered the Christian Indians in the praying towns akin to a "fifth column." In one case, they marched hundreds of their fellow Christians to Deer Island in Boston Harbor and left them there without food or shelter to die. I wonder what Jesus would've said about that.

  • Anyway, Philip's forces were winning...until the Mohawks, long-time English allies, mounted a surprise attack. This doomed Philip's confederacy. Many of the defeated Indians, including Philip's nine-year-old son, were loaded onto boats, shipped to the West Indies or Europe, and sold into slavery. Again, a sterling example of Christian charity.

  • Philip was dismembered and his body parts strewn among the colonies. His head was put on a pike and left there for 20 years. Message: This is how the conquerors will deal with rebellion and treason.

  • For more on the subject, see Praying Towns in After the Mayflower and Quality of After the Mayflower.

    Below:  "Philip, King of Mount Hope, 1772, by Paul Revere. Revere designed this pygmy like image to make King Philip look repulsive."

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